Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bay State Cyclocross Day 2 Race Report

Dude! I figured out a way to be more efficient with blogging. Just have WICKED BAD races on the weekend and then you have nothing to write about! BAM, done!

Sterling Day 1 was one of those. I should probably confirm with crossresults, but I feel like I've NEVER had a good race at Sterling Day 1 in my life, because it's a windy power course and I'm a soft man. Soooo... I rode around deep in the scrub zone, and when I bobbled twice and got dropped by the last group on the course, it mentally broke me and I packed it the eff in. WAH.

The good thing about that kind of lameness is having to live with your own cranky and regretful self for 24 hours, which meant when we were huddling for warmth before the race on Sunday I had a SIGNIFICANT motivation advantage over my peers.

Aaaand Day 2 had turns. Like, back-to-back turns! Mandatory recovery turns! So then you could go haaaaaaaaahd when you got outta there!



 The random staging gods smiled upon me and I drew literally the best starting spot you could get, after the UCI points.  Third row.  I picked the right side, which ended up not being correct -- because of the "unique" start "straight" at Sterling, the early pinch is on the left but the late pinch is on the right, and when you're getting pinched on the right all those guys who blew their starts coming piling up the left side to pass you/dive bomb each other into the first turn.  Or at least that's what the seat cam told me.

In any case, I did manage to stick an adequate start, and more importantly I was HUNGRY.  So I was keeping that gap SLAMMED SHUT, and when you're glued to the wheel ahead of you dudes are a lot less interested in coming around, even if those dudes know you're a scrub who doesn't belong up there (hi Adam St Germain!).

Of course Adam got around eventually, but still, there was remarkable little place-bleeding on my lap one as the field splintered, which meant I ended up with STRONG DUDES.

Strong Quebecois dude to be exact, as I settled in with my favorite internet Frenchy, JP T-R.  Geoff Bouchard and Brad Perley were also hanging out, initially, but they soon went their separate ways.

The problem was that JPTR was WAY STRONGER than me and I had very, very little to contribute to our efforts.  I was basically on the rivet drafting him.  The "crowd"  (ok, everyone except negacoach had gone home, but he's loud) mercilessly abused me for not contributing.  At all.  It was suggested that I "buy him [JPTR]  breakfast tomorrow morning, at least."

The "Myspace angle" of cross.  Behind Jean Phillipe, of course. Via Caitlin Wissell

Luckily Jean-Phillipe is a Canadian, and therefore unfailingly polite, so not only did he never attack me, he never even tried to flick me through to take a pull.

Side note:  if Canadians are ACTUALLY polite, how come the argiest-bargiest dudes in the scrub zone at Gloucester every year are Quebecois riders? Those guys would chop their mom into a stone wall for 50th place.  MY STEREOTYPES ARE CONFLICTING AND IT BURNS!

Eventually, after like 40 minutes of suffering on his wheel, he eased enough on the track that I felt like doing my part for international relations and went to the front, for ALMOST A WHOLE LAP.

This turned out to be the slowest lap we rode all day, 7:36.  So yeah.  There's a reason I'm not pulling.  It's not that I enjoy being a leech.

The situation had gotten so embarrassing that I was actually starting to feel bad about what I knew was coming -- me attacking him with 2 minutes left to race and beating him by one spot.  What if it was for the last paying spot?  Even I would feel compelled to split the payout with him at that point, even though "that's bike racing."

LUCKILY, Jesse Keough flatted (twice, actually) and came out of the pit just ahead of us with two laps to go.  And when you're a good bike racer on a double-flat day, you could care less about race tactics in the scrub zone, so you're just riding your bike.

Jesse did a lap on the front (7:33, also slower than the laps Jean Phillipe was leading, dammit!) and made a very effective derny.  With neither JP or myself in the wind, I figured we both got enough of a rest that we could have a final-lap #northamericanclash on reasonably fair terms.

JP opened the festivities with an attack on the track that Jesse was entirely disinterested in, which left me sprinting wildly after him and cut our group to two.  He got the gap, but with an extended technical section between the track and the lower parking lot, I got back on terms.

Retrospective:  The long climb from the parking lot to the top of the course is the last extended pedaling section.  If you want to dump me on the last lap, that's your spot.

My plan had been to attack over the top of the last climb, and it worked, in that it gapped JP and also got both my quads to cramp -- so at least I don't have to wonder if I could have gone harder.  Making the turn into the woods with a locking-up left quad was an adventure, but I kept my act together just enough to make it to the finish straight with an un-sprintable gap, good for 23rd place and an interview with Ryan the intern.

Then JP gave me pie, which I assume was poisoned.

Bonus content from last weekend, which I never blogged about!  Velo Cross Bar Cam!  The EUROEST course in New England:
 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Putney/West Hill Shop CX Race Report

Yo! Too busy this week for proper bloggage, and really, this Putney went just like every other Putney -- take half an hour to find your group, commence barnacle-ing, hang around 'til the last lap and then win the sprint-before-the-sprint to win the group. You want more commentary? Watch the video!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cycle-Smart International Race Reports

Traditionally, the Cycle-Smart International is where I save my season, on a sprinter and handler's course, drafting strong riders for 59 minutes and then dumping them at the end.

Unfortunately, this year's season hasn't really needed to be saved, because I've been riding "well" by my own mediocre standards.  So I treated Noho like a normal race, instead of my one final chance to redeem things, and did stuff like TRAINING and BUILDING THE COURSE during the week.  Then I was tired and my legs were JUNK on both days.  What!

CSI Day 1
Drew a back row start.  Felt like I sprinted up to a decent position on the pavement, but the chainstay cam reveals a whole lotta airspace behind me at that point.  Then we all stood around on the run-up waiting for traffic to clear, and then it was off to the races!

It was quickly apparent that my bad legs and bad start position meant that forward progress was pretty much impossible on my own, and I wasn't riding up to ANYONE in the wind.  Even sucking the wheels of my scrubby brethren initially seemed like it might be more work than I could do -- but eventually, the everyone-is-going-too-hard phase wore off, and I settled down in scrubtown.

Today's group ride in scrubtown was made interesting by the presence of Cary, whom I have been beating by smaller and smaller intervals each week as he finds his fitness.  This was no different -- while I was groveling, er, strategically sitting on the back of the group of five, Cary was on the front driving it.  Danger!

In fact, he wasn't just driving it, he was attacking and gapping it!  DANGERRRR!

Then he crashed and we all went by.

Phew.

Then he crashed again trying to chase back on.

PHEW.

Crisis averted.

My plan reverted to the traditional "don't get dropped, win the sprint."

For most of the race, getting dropped was almost impossible, because the guys captaining the HMS Scrubtown were turning our ship about as well as I was pedaling, and the corners actually went WAY BETTER when you let yourself get gapped enough on the straightaways to roll through them instead of being all over the brakes and the wheel ahead of you.

The 100th trans-Look-Park-ic voyage of the HMS Scrubtown [Caitlin Wissell]

But then!  With just over two to go, the champion we needed (but didn't deserve), Josh Lehmann, took the front.  Josh had been in and out of the group all day, and into the pit at least twice (?), but unlike the rest of us he was RACING HIS FACE OFF with 15 minutes to go.

He was shredding turns and attacking straights and I just barely hitched my caboose to his train as it left the station.  Holy cow!  The difference was amazing.  Instead of having enough time in the turns to make a sandwich, we weren't even touching the brakes, and this crazy kid would fly out of the turn like he was chasing back onto the group that didn't exist anyway!  It was the intensity with which I race cross... in my dreams.

Best of all, he didn't even try to get me to take a single pull for two laps.

Josh Lehmann:  my favorite bike racer ever.

Sadly, there are no gifts in bike racing (Lance told me that!) so I still had to win the sprint against him.  I tried to make it up with flowery prose later...



CSI Day 2:  Groundhog Day
If I was strapped for time, I would cut-n-paste my day 1 race report here, and replace "Josh Lehmann" with "Andrew Lysaght" and be done with it.  That is HOW SIMILAR the race went.  No legs, hanging out, late rally to go with the one guy in the group who was racing, sprint win for a spot in the 30s.

So let's take a minute to talk about some things.

I love the Northampton course(s),  but I do think they are too similar between the days.  This year, especially, with the ride-up turning into a run-up, the courses were virtually indistinguishable in terms of feel and flow.  While this kind of thing does suit me, I'd love to have them ride a bit differently.

The only thing I can really think of is to take one of the courses and make it even more wide-open (power day!) and take the other one and add as much gnar as can possible found at Look Park to it.  Not easy, which is probably why it hasn't happened yet.  But hey, JD, Adam, Al!  At least one of you totally reads this.  I'd be stoked to help.  (Makes "call me" sign while winking)

Another thing.

Day two, I drew a stupid-good start position.  Thus, I was WAY TOO FAR UP early in the race, and due to the magic of the random draw, I wasn't the only scrub who was over his head.

As a longtime elite scrub (four seasons of mediocrity!  huzzah!) I know that the best way to capitalize on a good draw is to ride and smooth and efficiently as possible, while the guys who belong ahead of you trickle by.  Don't fight them for corners, don't dive bomb, just ride smooth and hold wheels as best you can, and hope that when things stabilize you're a group ahead of where you oughta be.

This is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Pete Hagerty did to me on lap one.  Directly after the runup, going left before the gazebo, I left a teeny-tiny gap on my left side (commonly known as "setting up the turn") and then, halfway through the turn, WHAM!  Pete's front wheel hits my bottom bracket at a 90-degree angle, knocking us both over.

BRO YOU ARE NOT HELPING ANYONE'S CAUSE HERE.

Remember when I called Josh Thornton some bad words at GP Gloucester?  I think I used the same bad words again, at this point.  The difference this time is that it's been six days and I still don't feel bad about it.
Moments before the crash.  Notice the ludicrous number of dudes behind us. [cyclowhat]

Best of all, this crash knocked my front brake pad out, because I'm a ding-dong who got sick of fishing around behind the fork leg to put the screw in every time I change pads.  SO YEAH!  Guess who gets to ride 55 minutes with only a rear brake?  This guy!

That one's all on me, though.  Matt Roy is probably cackling maniacally right now.  Or crying.

ANYWAY figuring out how to shred Noho with 20% braking power took a while, as anyone who saw me just about fly into to the crowd on lap one's descent might have noticed.  But eventually I got my flow going, and it was fine.

Ok, but really, race report.

Legs were junky, as mentioned.  I dropped places pathetically while figuring out how to race with one brake, eventually getting picked up by the Scrub Express  (nonstop service to waaaay out of the money!) and drifting to the back of the train as I am wont to do.

This was working fine, right up until the boxcar ahead of my caboose bobbled off the rails.  I might have "encouraged" Ian Schon to lead the chase back on, and then I might have also "used him like a kleenex" and sprinted across to the group on my own when it became clear he wasn't going to make it.

Maybe.
Hanging with the Schon, back when we were friends. [Caitlin Wissel]

Today's #roommateclash opponent was Andrew, who rode up to our group and then steadily through it over the course of half an hour.  I watched him sit second wheel for a lap, and I knew what was coming...  fifteen minutes left to go... someone thinks he's a real bike racer!  Dammit!

I grimly fought my way through the group and set off in pursuit of Andrew, taking some care to start my "pull" nice and hard in a technical section.  I was quickly across the gap to Andrew, at the small cost of frothing all over myself.  (It was cold, dammit!)

I took like, one whole pull when I got there, to confirm that I was on team "Hold This Gap" as well as team "Gonna Outsprint You," and it seemed to work, in that Andrew had a Lehmann-ish level of cooperativeness.  I suppose our seven-second gap on a chasing group of four, and the ton of solo guys just ahead may've had something to do with it.  In any case, we ripped the last lap, picking off two or three more places, and then I won the sprint from the secret spot yet again.

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